Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

ONE- This past week something really big happened in our small county- we sent a tree to the U.S. Capitol! Every year, a national forest is chosen to supply a live tree for the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and this year the Colville National Forest was chosen! The tree they selected is an 88 foot Engleman Spruce, over 75 years old, and grew just a few miles from where we live in the county! Hubby and I joined in the festivities as our community celebrated the cutting of the tree and its send-off on the journey it will take around the country before finally making its way to D.C. in early Dec. At the send-off there were carolers, street performers, food vendors, and LOTS of people- it made me feel so patriotic, Christmasy, and proud of our community! What an honor to have a tree from our local forest grace the lawn of the Capitol for Christmas! You can see the top of the tree in the background of the above photo.

TWO- Speaking of Christmas, we had our first snowfall of the season this week! It was only a dusting, and it lasted only a few hours before it melted, but it was lovely! I'm not generally one to hurry in the snow season because, well, once it arrives, it stays. For a long time. So I'm in no rush. But I have to admit, I love the way it looks and it does make the house feel snug and cozy.

THREE- Speaking of cozy, I am in love with my new fleece pajamas!! Hubby got me an adorable set for my birthday and I practically live in them (as much as I can respectably get away with). They are so soft and warm- perfect for these nights that are now dropping frequently into the 20s. Do you have a favorite pair of winter PJs?

FOUR- Speaking of PJs, one of my favorite things to do in my PJs is drink tea!! We have really been into drinking tea lately- which was encouraged by several birthday gifts- new mugs, a new teapot, a gorgeous wooden "tea box", tea, a tea bag holder- you get the idea! There is something so comforting and snug about a steaming cup of tea wafting a soothing aroma. What's your favorite tea variety?

FIVE- Speaking of tea, I just saw a trailer for Downton Abbey Season 4. I'm probably a bit late on that, but oh well. We are working our way through Season 3 again an it is not any easier the second time. I cried for Lady Sibyl again and I am dreading the finale. The first time I watched it I think I grieved for a week! Sad, but true. Anyhow, Season 4 looks no less dramatic. Less death, hopefully, but wow. I've seen some pictures of Mary in black (*heart breaks*) and Mary and Tom with their respective babies (*heart breaks again*). Sigh. Do we seriously have to wait till January??? If you happen to be from the UK, NO SPOILERS PLEASE!!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pumpkin Waffles {with Maple Whipped Cream}

So I've come to the conclusion that waffles and whipped cream were meant to be together.

Just typing that is making my mouth water.

Oh, my. We made these amazing waffles last night and they.



Do people say "killer" anymore? Yeah, I usually don't say it much either, but these. Oh, these just are.

Whoever thought to pair maple and pumpkin together is an absolute genius. Those two elements together just scream fall and marry perfectly visually and in your mouth.


You would be committing a serious, and I do mean, serious error! The real whipped cream laced with maple just takes these amazingly spicy and pumpkiny (yes, I just invented that, spell check) waffles to a whole new level. And you don't want to miss out on the ride.

Oh, and just for the record, bacon LOOOOVES hanging out with maple and pumpkin.

Just sayin'.

Pumpkin Waffles with Maple Whipped Cream
makes 4-5 waffles (on a round Belgian waffle maker)

For the waffles:

2 cups baking mix (like Bisquick)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TB unsalted butter, melted
1 TB vegetable oil
1  large egg

For the whipped cream:

1 cup heavy cream
2 TB maple syrup

Lightly grease a waffle maker with some nonstick spray and preheat it according to the manufacturer's directions. 
In a bowl, whisk together baking mix and pumpkin pie spice. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.
In another bowl, combine milk, pumpkin, vanilla, butter, oil and egg. Whisk until smooth. Add to flour mixture and stir until just combined (a few lumps are ok).
Add 3/4-1 cup batter to the waffle maker and close lid. Cook according to the manufacturer's directions. Remove waffle with a fork and keep warm while repeating with remaining batter.
Make the whipped cream: in a chilled bowl with stand mixer or handheld mixer, beat cream with syrup until soft peaks form. Serve with warm waffles and more syrup if desired.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sourdough Pizza Crust

So you remember how I took that sourdough bread class in October?

Well, I've been faithfully feeding my starter on a {fairly} regular basis and it has grown! Or it had grown. I recently gave a couple of cups away to my sisters in Oregon who want to try their hand at sourdough tending and baking. Now I need to work at building it back up again.

But before I gave some away, I was starting to get quite a jar full. So I decided to try making sourdough pizza crust! Even though my starter isn't super sour, I thought it would make a deliciously flavorful crust. It did! What a yummy change for our Friday pizza nights! The sourdough crust was a great blend of chewy and crisp, with a very subtle but rich flavor. I usually make a whole wheat thin crust, but this new crust will definitely be added to the rotation whenever I need to use up a cup of starter!

It is a little time consuming, but worth the effort! I've heard it said that sourdough is a lazy bread. It needs lots of time to rest in between steps. :) This pizza crust is no exception, but the great thing is that it makes two crusts, so if you are a small family or a couple like us, you can freeze the other crust for next week!

Sourdough Pizza Crust
makes 2 thin crust 12" pizzas or 1 thicker crust 14" pizza

1 cup sourdough starter (straight from fridge, unfed)
1/2 cup hot tap water
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast

Spoon starter into a mixing bowl. Add hot water, flour, salt and yeast. Mix to combine, then knead till smooth and slightly sticky, about 7 minutes at medium speed using a stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased container and allow to rise until just about  doubled in size. This might take 2 to 4 hours, depending on how vigorous your starter is.
For two thinner pizzas, divide the dough in half and shape each half into a flattened disk. Drizzle two round 12 in. pizza pans with olive oil, tilting to coat. Place one half in each pan. Cover and let rest for 15 min.
Gently press dough towards the edges of the pans. When it starts to shrink back, cover and let is rest again, about 15 min. Finish pressing the dough to the edges of the pans.
(For 1 thicker crust pizza, follow directions above without dividing dough in half and using a jelly roll pan or 15 in. pizza pan.)
Cover pan(s), let dough rise until it's as thick as you like (mine was fine without rising any longer, but you may find you want to let yours rise for an hour or more).
Preheat oven to 400.
For thin crust, prebake the crust about 4 min. before topping. Top, then bake until cheese is bubbly, about 8 min. For thicker crust, prebake about 8 min. Top, then bake about 10 more minutes.
Remove from oven, let cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

ONE- We went to a Pastor's conference in Moscow, ID this past weekend, and on the way there we saw a gorgeous phenomenon over the fields of the Paulouse- the moon rising full on one side of us and the sun setting on the other side. It was spectacular! The moon rose in pinks and purples, while the sun was setting in oranges and yellows. What a masterpiece! Speaking of the conference, we really had a great time! The speakers were great and we enjoyed getting to know the little town of Moscow. They have a great little main street with cute coffee shops and stores- we even got to sneak away over a lunch break and visit the local farmer's market! One of the highlights of the weekend was that Hubby got to meet one of the pastors and authors who has been really influential in his life!

TWO- Remember how I told you we got pumpkins and apples from Greenbluff last week? Well, I finally got around to doing something with them and made pumpkin applesauce! I had made the recipe last year but forgot just how good it was. OH YUM. We ate the entire batch in two days. And it makes a lot. You should make some, pronto.

THREE- Thanks to my older brother, Hubby and I are officially hooked on the political drama The West Wing. Yes, I know we're a little late to the party. Like, 14 years late. But, oh well. Better late than never, right? We are currently watching Season 1 on Amazon Prime with our trial subscription and I have a feeling that is going to factor into our decision when the trial is up... Oh, Amazon, your ploy is working. Anyway, about the show. One word: dialogue. Okay two words: dialogue. And acting. Even though our political viewpoint doesn't always line up with the fictional administration, it is fascinating to try to understand a little bit more about how the White House operates. We find ourselves often lost in the quick exchanges, but intrigued nonetheless!

FOUR- I have another Cubbie in my class! A cute little boy came to join us last night at Awana, which made it much more fun for the little girl, especially during game time. One thing I adore about that age (3-4) is that they are so honest! I was teaching them about heaven last night, and how someday we'll go there to live with Jesus and the little boy looks at me sceptically and says, "But not today..." :)

FIVE- We hit our first deer! Here in Pend Oreille County, it is quite common to hit deer, and we managed to go four years without joining that club- until last Saturday, that is. On our way home from the conference, two deer ran across the road at dusk. We missed the first one, but the second hit the hood and flew off into the ditch. I have no idea if he survived or not. :( Thankfully, we were unharmed and my little car made it out with only a little ding in the hood. It hasn't really been her week. First the deer, now her brakes. She has to go into the shop next week to have a front end brake job since one of the calipers went bad and ground the brake pad down to the metal (See what I just did there, acting like I know what I'm talking about?). Meanwhile, a friend has graciously loaned us her car!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

{Slow Cooker} Tuscan Chicken Stew

What makes something "Tuscan"?

Is it the white beans?

Or the tomatoes?

Surely somebody knows.

I don't, but I'll tell you something I DO know:

This stew is YUMMY.

It is full of delicious veggies, tender chicken, spices, oh, and of course those beans and tomatoes!

And it is guaranteed to warm you up if you've been outside at a football game, raking leaves, pumpkin patching, or any of the other outdoor activities people do in the fall.

And the best part is, I slowcookerized it for you (as of now that is officially a word, just so you know), so your slow cooker does all the work while you're out having fun (or in the case of leaf raking, not having fun)!

Slow Cooker Tuscan Chicken Stew
adapted from South Your Mouth
makes 6-8 servings

1-2 lb. chicken pieces (I used skinless thighs)
5 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
4 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 lg. onion, diced
5 med. red potatoes, chopped
1 15 oz. can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp thyme
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on low 6-8 hours or until potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through. If using bone-in pieces of chicken, remove bones and chop or shred meat. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thursday Thoughts






As you can see in the above photo, my yard is having a leaf convention. We have two beautiful trees in our yard (I'm not sure what they are), but once a cold snap hits, they drop their leaves like hot potatoes. On the other hand, our huge old oak waits till the last possible second to drop its leaves- generally once we've had a snow and its difficult to rake. And since we don't have a fancy mower with a bag, we do (or I should say, he does) it the old fashioned way.

TWO- Speaking of leaves and fallish things... Hubby and I went up to Greenbluff on Monday to get some pumpkins and apples! One farm had giant honeycrisp apples (YUM) for only $1 per lb.! What a steal! We also had an amazing cinnamon roll paired with oh-so-delicious caramel apple cider- not the Starbucks variety, mind you, but serious, fresh apple cider! Wow, was that good! Now I just need to find some time to roast/puree my pie pumpkins and get a batch of applesauce going in the crock pot.  What's your favorite fall drink? That cider pretty much topped the list for me...unless I was able to go back to Joseph, OR and get a Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate made with fresh chocolate from Arrowhead Chocolates where you get a salted caramel dark chocolate spoon to suck on while you're waiting. THAT was some serious heaven in a cup. And on a spoon. But I digress...favorite drink?

THREE- I found my Halloween costume! I wouldn't dress up for Halloween at all, except our church puts on a harvest carnival for the kids in the community that night. A lot of them stop by to play games and get candy as they are trick-or-treating through the neighborhood. And they love it when Hubby and I dress up. I found this cute little homemade bumblebee costume at Value Village and I think, paired with my black leggings and a springy antenna headband thing I found, it'll be quite fun! Hubby found a great beard, so he's going to be a Bible character- he hasn't decided which one.
By the way, while we're on the subject, it just irritates me to no end that practically all you can find in costumes for women is slinky, "sexy" costumes or absolutely disgusting ones. *sigh*

FOUR- Speaking of the Bible, as of right now my dining room table is completely covered in paper. Stacks of paper. We are starting our men's and women's Bible studies next week and I am in the midst of the copying, sorting, hole punching process! As I type the copier is whirring and every few minutes I get up to sort a few more pages. Whew! I think I'm a little over halfway through. I think God prepared me for this side of pastoral ministry through my job at The UPS Store- I certainly did my fair share of copying, sorting, stacking and hole punching there!! Sometimes I really miss it, and it feels good to smell fresh ink and feel the paper hot off the copier again. I can't say that I've missed the dry hands and paper cuts though...

FIVE- So the government shutdown is over. Well, that's about all I'm going to say about that, since I don't really want to start a political war over here...
However, if you like Fox News, politics, and watching videos online, there's a show we love and would definitely recommend- Power Play with Chris Stirewalt. Chris is informative, funny, concise, and has the craziest and most creative vocabulary of anyone I know. We always find ourselves laughing out loud (which isn't something I can say for most news shows!) and understanding the issues better. Power Play is strictly for the internet crowd, and provides great discussion panels on current political issues while remaining clear, understandable, interesting, and, dare I say, entertaining! The guests are always enjoyable and informative and the topics relevant. Check it out- you just might become a groupie like us...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

{Slow Cooker} Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup

One of my absolute favorite fall food items is the butternut squash.

I was only introduced to it a couple of years ago and it changed my world forever! It's creamy texture and delicate, nutty flavor incorporate well into a variety of dishes, but it especially lends itself well to soups. Its bright color is cheery, and pureed into a dreamy smoothness, it banishes the chill of a crisp fall evening in no time!

This recipe makes a huge batch-we had some for dinner, froze enough for another dinner, and had enough leftover for several lunches!

Pro tip: to make your squash easier to cut (these things are notorious for being difficult to get into!), microwave it for 2-3 min. The rind should be somewhat softened so you can slice it in half without cutting off your hand in the process.
Also, before freezing, be sure to let the soup cool completely!

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup
(printable version)
adapted from Hamilton Beach
serves 8-10

1 medium onion, chopped
2 TB butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2 in. chunks
1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 in. chunks
5 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream

In a skillet, cook onion in butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 min. more. Spoon into slow cooker.
Add squash, sweet potatoes, broth and seasonings.
Cover and cook on high 4 hours or on low 6-7 hours.
Let cool slightly, then puree in a blender or using an immersion blender (stick blender) until smooth. Stir in cream.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

ONE- Yes, that gorgeous picture up there is where we live. One "block" from our house is that lovely river- I'm so blessed! I just love this time of year where we live- everything is getting gilded! Other than food, the main thing that lures me away from my depression about summer ending is the way the Creator paints everything golden. What a gorgeous interlude between summer and winter! Hubby and I were talking last night about how nice it is that we have fall. Aren't you glad we aren't sweating and eating popsicles one day, then wake up to three feet of snow the next? I for one am glad for the somewhat gradual transition!

TWO- I took my second cooking class this week! Monday I learned how to make croissants at The Kitchen Engine in Spokane! Local pastry chef Amy taught us how to make classic butter croissant dough, then showed us how to mix it up with rum-soaked raisin and chocolate versions! The class was very hands-on (I got to wear an apron and get my hands in the dough!) and fun! I learned lots of new terminology and some new techniques that I will {hopefully} be sharing with you soon if I can recreate the process myself at home! Fun fact: when you have made all the turns on your croissant dough there should be 81 layers of dough and butter! Crazy, right? That explains that flaky, airy texture!!

THREE- I really enjoy classic books. I've been reading Ivanhoe lately and something was puzzling me. Familiar characters and events kept popping up, although I've never read the book before! So many things (a jolly friar, Allan-a-Dale, guys in lincoln green, etc) reminded me of Robin Hood! I was confused because the Robin Hood I read was by Howard Pyle, not Sir Walter Scott (the author of Ivanhoe). So who really came up with Robin Hood? Who gets the credit? Where did I go for answers but, of course, to Wikipedia. Aha! Neither one! Robin Hood is an old legend, dating back to the medieval times, so both men drew from that, as did many others. Their literature helped shape what the modern view of Robin Hood is today, but neither can be credited with inventing him. Problem solved.Thank you, Wikipedia.

FOUR- I went to Burlington Coat Factory for the first time in my life (that I know of) this week! I was astounded to find out that they have more than just coats! I feel sure that I should have known that somehow, but I truly thought they just sold coats. I mean, the NAME is Burlington COAT factory. Right? So anyway, now I'm hooked. For a girl who loves Ross, Burlington Coat Factory is a thing to behold! It's like a bigger, more organized Ross! Sort of. Anyway, I did go there initially to buy a coat, and found one I love for a great price! But now I'm itching to go back- maybe for Christmas shopping? Am I the only one who thought they sold only coats? Please say no.

FIVE- Hubby and I are trying to decide which streaming service to go with. We are thinking of getting a Roku thingy for our TV, but we can't settle on a service. So, if you've got a preference, give them a shout out (and reasons, please!)! We like classic movies, family friendly stuff, British drama, romantic comedies and very select TV shows- mostly classics, cooking stuff and PBS drama. Our main two choices at present are Amazon Prime and Netflix. What do you think? Go!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

ONE- Return of the Soup Night!!! With the advent of October and our Awana program starting up again, we officially began Soup Nights yesterday!! As much as I love summer, as soon as the weather starts to get chilly, I can't wait to start our Soup Nights. Every Wednesday I make soup in the crock pot so when we get home from our church activities the house smells heavenly and there's a crock pot full of hot soup ready to fill our hungry tummies. :) We kicked off this year with a smooth and delicious Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup (look for it on the blog soon!)- full of flavor but astoundingly low on calories, which is perfect for my "diet" of sorts. Yay! The butternut squash is seriously one of my favorite things about fall. Its mellow, nutty flavor and smooth, buttery consistency is perfect in so many dishes!

TWO- Like I said, we started Awana last night and surprise! I have a Cubbie after all! Only one so far, but she's a cutie! I'm excited to teach, but it will definitely be a challenge to adapt the class to just one child. I don't think she minded all the undivided attention though. :)

THREE- We went to a wedding on Saturday and it was lovely!! Of course, as weddings usually do, it made us reminisce about our own wedding a little over four years ago! When we got home, Hubby dug up the song we danced to for our "first dance"- a totally obscure song I found on a random Christian compilation album called "Dream Alive" (go ahead and google it- you won't find it). We danced in the kitchen and for the first time I felt like when I closed my eyes I was actually there- back in that special moment when we took our first dance steps as husband and wife. The wedding day always feels like such a blur to me when I look back on it, so finally being able to recall something so clearly was really special! Do you have any stand out memories of your wedding day, or does it all jumble together?

FOUR- Speaking of getting married, I just realized today that I have never updated my PayPal account with my married name. I also have a debit card that still has my maiden name on it. Seriously how long does it take to get everything finally changed over??! You'd think after four years I would have squared it all away! Now PayPal wants me to fax them a copy of my driver's license and marriage certificate!! Ugh. Too much hassle for something I rarely use, I tell you!

FIVE- In preparation for Season 4 of Downton Abbey, Hubby and I have been rewatching the previous three seasons, and it's every bit as delightful and suspenseful as the first time. We are in the middle of Season 2 right now and I am already dreading living through Season 3 again. Too. Much. Grief. If you haven't seen it yet, and somehow managed to escape everyone talking about it, I won't give anything away, but it's almost enough to make you want to boycott Season 4. Almost. Speaking of Season 4, why on earth can we not watch DA at the same time as the UK???! I'm so frustrated that they get it now, but we have to wait till January!!! It seems very unfair. There, I've had my say!!!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Overnight Sourdough Pancakes {+ my first cooking class}

So a couple of weeks ago I went to my very first cooking class! It was in our local kitchen shop and was a great experience! Our instructor, Sue, was very relaxed and methodical, taking time to demonstrate proper technique and answer any questions- and there were many! We not only learned how to bake sourdough bread in the form of sliders and buns, but also got a lesson on how to feed and maintain our very own sourdough starter! I really enjoy sourdough bread, so was excited to get to take home my own sourdough "baby"- and feed it and watch it grow!

Sue informed us that sourdough is infinitely variable- the yeast takes on different flavors depending on the air where you live! So while the sourdough in San Fran is quite sour, ours here in the NW may not be. Rather it will be a very flavorful artisan bread. In the class, we made farmstead sourdough buns (which I'd love to recreate) and they were delicious! Fluffy, soft and- while not particularly sour- bursting with flavor.

After tending and feeding my starter for a little over a week, I decided to try one of the recipes we were sent home with- sourdough pancakes!

Rule of thumb- don't deplete your store of starter! You want to have at least half a cup left to continue to feed!

The pancakes are fantastic! The sourdough gives them a hearty, yeasty flavor and a light, airy texture. They are relatively easy to prepare, too, because you prep the starter the night before (unless you want to have them for dinner, in that case you could prep it in the morning).

If you don't have your own starter, but would like to, check your local kitchen shop or order it online! Your starter should come with instructions on how to reconstitute and care for your starter.

Overnight Sourdough Pancakes
makes about 2 dozen pancakes

1 c. sourdough starter
2 c. warm water
3 1/2 c. flour
3 eggs
4 TB sugar, maple syrup, or honey
1/4 c. oil or melted butter
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

The night before you want to eat, combine in a large bowl the starter, water, and flour (make sure it has plenty of room to rise). Cover.
In the morning, add the rest of the ingredients and mix until well combined. Add more water if thinner pancakes are desired.
Heat a large pan over medium/high heat and grease with oil or butter. Spoon about 1/4 c. of batter into the pan for each pancake. Cook 1-2 min. per side, or until golden. Keep hot in a warm oven while repeating with the rest of the batter if desired. 
Serve with butter and syrup, berries, or other desired toppings.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Roasted Zucchini, Black Bean & Goat Cheese Enchiladas

Let's face it. Enchiladas really aren't that pretty.

At least, once they come out of the pan.

I think they look adorable all wrapped up and squished together in a pan, covered in sauce and sprinkled with cheese, but after?

Ugh. At least the avocado is pretty.

If you know a good way to get an enchilada out of the pan, intact and looking gorgeous, let me know.

Somehow Sara over at Sprouted Kitchen managed to make them look amazing, but, yeah.

I don't think I have that gift.

That being said, pretty or not, these veggie enchiladas are so delicious. Squishy, gooey, falling apart comfort food usually is. No exception here!

I've recently discovered goat cheese and am loving it! I think, to me, it looks like feta, but tastes like cream cheese. Except saltier. Either way it's pretty amazing. Surprising you with these yummy pockets of ooey gooey creaminess.


Glad we're having leftovers tonight because I'm really craving one now.

Roasted Zucchini, Black Bean & Goat Cheese Enchiladas
adapted from Sprouted Kitchen
makes about 10 enchiladas

3 large zucchini, diced into 1/4 in. pieces
3 1/2 tsp olive oil, divided
1 1/4 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
3.5 oz. crumbled goat cheese
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
10 soft taco size flour tortillas (or substitute corn)
1 15 oz. can red enchilada sauce
2 avocados, chopped

Preheat oven to 425. Place the zucchini on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tsp of the olive oil and sprinkle with lemon pepper. Toss to coat. Spread over 2 sheets if needed to make one even layer without crowding. Roast about 30 min. or until edges are slightly brown. Remove to cool. Turn oven down to 375.
Meanwhile, heat skillet to med-high heat and add 1/2 tsp of olive oil. Add onion, saute 3-4 min. Add garlic and saute 1 min. more. 
In a large mixing bowl, combine the onion mixture, black beans, mozzarella, and all but a few TB of the goat cheese. Add the zucchini and toss gently to combine.
Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish and pour about 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom to coat. Working with one tortilla at a time, distribute filling evenly into tortillas, rolling each one and placing them seam side down in the dish, squeezing them in tight.
Brush the tops with remaining olive oil and pour remaining enchilada sauce over the top. Sprinkle with remaining goat cheese.
Bake 20-25 min. or until tops are just crisp and sauce is bubbly. Cool 5 min., then serve, topped with chopped avocado.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

ONE- It's officially been fall now for what? 5 days? Our September weather is certainly cooperating. The photo above shows the beautiful dark clouds we've been seeing a lot of lately. I don't think we've had a sunny day this week and the high temps have been under 60 for several of them! I finally broke down and turned on the heat just a wee bit in the house and I'm wearing my slippers & bathrobe again. I am in no hurry to lose our summer sunshine, but I have to admit there's something I just can't resist about blankets, jeans, soup, tea, cozy sweaters and cuddling with my hubby. Maybe fall isn't so bad. ;)

TWO- I took a cooking class on Monday! Hubby gave me a certificate to take a cooking class as a birthday gift almost a year ago and I finally registered for not one but two! The first was a local class that cost me only $10 and not only did I come away with some great knowledge, we even got to take home our very own sourdough starter! We made farmstead sourdough sliders and rolls (which were AMAZING by the way) and learned a lot about the scientific process that is sourdough. One cool fact: yeast takes on a different flavor in different regions, so sourdough bread is a true art- nobody's tastes the same! I have been feeding my starter and hope to be able to use it soon. We got to take home a few recipes, one of which is a mouthwatering sourdough pancake recipe!! I'll be taking the second class (croissants- can't wait!) in Spokane next week.

THREE- I get to see my brother twice this week! He's in Spokane doing some training for his new position as Treasury Solutions Analyst with Bank of America; we got to have dinner with him Monday night at the Onion (had me a yummy chicken, brie & apple sandwich!) and we're hoping to have dinner with him again tomorrow night! I wish my sis-in-love and the kids could have come too, but it sure is a treat to see my brother's face! If he were closer I'd fix him up some good home cooking so he didn't have to eat out every night, but oh, well.

FOUR- Next week we start Awana, the kid's program at our church, and I usually teach the Cubbies class (preschool). However, as it stand right now I have no Cubbies! If none show up, I'm planning on helping Hubby with his class, which is 3-6 grade. It may turn out to be a very different year for me! I'm excited and a little nervous. I haven't worked with the older age groups in a long time.

FIVE- I'm doing this photo challenge thing with my sister and it's actually pretty fun! She found a random list online and each day for a month we're challenged to take a picture of something different. For instance, today was "something that makes you sad" and I posted a pic of my hummingbird feeder- full, but with no birds on it. I'm so sad that the hummers seem to have migrated already! Their constant presence at my feeder in the summer is incredibly entertaining! Anyway, we post our pics to Instagram and it's fun to see what she comes up with too! We're halfway through the list, but if you want to join us, let me know and I'll send it to you! My Instagram name is joybell1029- feel free to follow!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

{Skinny} Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

So you know how I've been gone for awhile? I know, I'm sorry about that. Several factors caused the absence...

1)We've been very busy! It started with the county fair and it's not over yet. It's shaping up to be a very full fall/winter what with weddings, vacays, speaking engagements, and the usual fall church schedule! And being busy means I haven't had time to try out very many new recipes.

2) I'm on a sort of a diet. I've been using the MyFitnessPal app and by counting calories and working out more I've lost almost 15 lb. since May! I feel great and I think I'm starting to look better too. I'd still like to lose another 10-15 though. That being said, I'm eating and cooking a little differently. Not all of the recipes I've tried have turned out very well.

3) It's been summer. I'm lazy. There, I said it. Too lazy to take photos, too lazy to write.

So, now that we've got the excuses logged, allow me to introduce you to one of my new favorite "skinny" dinners! Hubby and I just love the freshness of this easy dish! The flavors of the sauce are fantastic and you just can't get over the satisfying crunch of crisp lettuce, cabbage, carrots and smoky toasted almonds. Four of these wraps filled me up and still came in under 400 calories! Serve with brown rice and you've got a light, healthy, satisfying meal that won't add to your waistline!

Skinny Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
adapted from SkinnyMom
makes approx. 12 wraps (serves 3-4)

12 small lettuce leaves or 6 large, halved (we like to use romaine)

1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped or shredded chicken breast (I like to cook mine in the crockpot with a few TB of teriyaki or soy sauce, then shred)
2 cups shredded cabbage & carrots (dry coleslaw mix works perfectly!)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped or slivered almonds, toasted

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 TB grated fresh ginger
1 TB toasted sesame oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Mix up sauce ingredients until thoroughly combined. To assemble wraps, distribute filling ingredients evenly among lettuce leaves. Drizzle with sauce and roll.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lemon Belgian Waffles {with Blueberry Syrup}

It's almost officially the weekend! And weekends mean brunch. Or breakfast for dinner. Pancakes. Eggs. Sausage. Bacon. Waffles.


I used to think that waffles were just pancakes all dressed up. With little holes to catch the syrup. Wonderful little holes!

Or to prevent you from spreading butter smoothly across the surface. Evil little holes!

But then my parents gave us a Belgian waffle maker for our anniversary. YUM. Not only does the waffle iron make waffle making fun (it flips over like those ones you always see at hotel continental breakfasts), but the waffles themselves are delicious! They are crispy and light, just perfect for toppings of fresh fruit and whipped cream.

This particular recipe just pops with fresh lemon flavor and gets an extra dose of indulgence from  freshly make blueberry syrup. I tell you, even though the waffles are first rate, the real star of this show is the syrup. It is a gorgeous purple color and a perfect balance of sweet and just slightly tart.

When you've polished off all your waffles, you just might have some of this syrup leftover, so let me clue you in on what to do with the remaining deliciousness (besides just eating it by the spoonful). Last week we served they syrup atop vanilla ice cream at our church potluck- oh, heaven! This week, I have been stirring a tablespoon into my plain Greek yogurt every morning in lieu of my usual honey- oh, double heaven (is that a thing?)! I'm going to miss it when it's gone. Oh, well...guess I'll just have to make some more...

Lemon Belgian Waffles with Blueberry Syrup
makes about 6 waffles

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
2 TB vegetable oil
2 TB applesauce
2 large eggs, separated
2 TB white sugar
1 1/2 TB lemon zest
2 TB fresh lemon juice

Preheat a Belgian waffle iron and grease lightly.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together buttermilk, milk, vegetable oil, applesauce, 2 egg yolks, sugar, zest and lemon juice. In a small bow with an electric hand mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), beat 2 egg whites until soft peaks form.
Slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture, whisking as you do so, just until combined (don't overmix- batter should be slightly lumpy). Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in egg whites until combined. 
Spoon about 3/4 cup batter onto hot waffle iron and cook according to manufacturer's directions, until golden (cooking time will vary). Slowly lift lid when finished and carefully remove waffle. Repeat with remaining waffles and serve warm with blueberry syrup if desired.

Blueberry Syrup:
1 cup white sugar
2 TB cornstarch
1 cup cold water
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 1/2 TB fresh lemon juice

Whisk together sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Stir in water, add blueberries and lemon juice. Cook mixture over medium high heat, stirring frequently until mixture reaches a boil.
Reduce heat to medium low and boil gently for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Pour syrup into a blender, cover and blend on low speed about 1 minute or until well pureed. 
Serve over waffles, ice cream, yogurt, etc.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Raspberry & Grilled Chicken Salad {with Roasted Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette}

Hubby and I absolutely love our summers here in the northwest! One of our favorite things about it is picking fresh fruit from the local farms around our area, and berry season is an extra-special treat.

Unfortunately, due to vacation, company, and a generally busy schedule, we discovered that we had completely missed strawberry season! I am really disappointed because I like to freeze 10 lb. or so to have on hand for our Sunday night smoothies!

We were also sad to find out when we arrived on the bluff that a poorly timed hail storm had ruined many of the season's cherries! We managed to find some good ones amidst the splitting and small fruit, but I'm sure it's a blow to the farmers!

However, even in the bad news, there was a bright spot- raspberries!

We spent an hour or so in 90+ degree weather to glean these beauties, but they were worth it! I think I had forgotten how much I enjoy a good raspberry.

So, inspired by our bountiful supply of sweet and tangy berries, I decided to adapt Closet Cooking's recipe for a bright strawberry salad into a raspberry salad! It did not disappoint! The rich combination of goat cheese, pecans and bacon topped with succulent grilled chicken was perfectly complimented by the acidic bite of the beautifully pink roasted raspberry balsamic vinaigrette.

Tip: If you're tempted to skip making your own dressing in favor of a pre-made balsamic vinaigrette- don't! It only takes a few extra minutes, and it's well worth your time!

Raspberry & Grilled Chicken Salad
inspired by Closet Cooking
serves 4

For Salad:
1 lb. chicken breasts
1 cup roasted raspberry vinaigrette, divided (recipe follows)
5 cups fresh baby spinach
2 cups fresh raspberries
4 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup pecans

Place the chicken and 1/2 cup of the dressing in a large ziploc bag and marinate at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
Heat the grill to medium heat and brush lightly with oil. Grill chicken until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees (7-8 min. per side).
Meanwhile, prepare salad. Toss spinach with raspberries, bacon, goat cheese, and pecans. Dress salad now, or serve dressing on the side if you prefer. When chicken is done, slice thinly and place on top of individual servings.

For dressing (makes 1 cup):
1 cup raspberries
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 TB dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Place raspberries in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil and lightly greased with cooking spray. Roast about 10 min., watching carefully so as not to burn berries. Allow to cool slightly.
Puree all ingredients, including roasted raspberries, in a food processor or blender until smooth, adding more oil or vinegar as needed if dressing is too thick. Store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

{Copycat} Red Robin Whiskey River BBQ Chicken Salad

Hubby and I enjoy date nights about twice a month, and one of our favorite locales for a more casual night out is Red Robin. Known for their gourmet burgers, onion rings and thick shakes, they also boast quite a variety of alternate entrees- such as some stellar mouth-watering salads, sandwiches and wraps. 

You might be familiar with the Whiskey River BBQ trio- the burger, the chicken burger, and the wrap-, but have you met the latest addition to the family? 

Several months ago I tried the new Whiskey River BBQ Chicken Salad- and fell in love. 

I quickly made a note of all the ingredients on my smartphone so I could try to recreate it at home- and finally, I have! 

If you haven't tried it at Red Robin yet, I encourage you to do so- but I'm also thrilled to bring you the easy, cheaper, customizable DIY edition! 

I think my favorite thing about this southwest salad is that it's just fun to eat! Every bite is an adventure- there are so many ingredients, you just never know what's going to be in your next forkful! It pops with color, flavor, and texture, featuring black beans, grilled corn, jicama, and much more!

Tip: I had never worked with jicama before, but I discovered that if you slice it too early, it will dry out!

Note: I didn't even try to replicate Red Robin's secret Whiskey River BBQ Sauce- I have my own favorite! I highly recommend Sweet Baby Ray's (oh, and I really do love it...not getting paid for this product placement)! :)

Copycat Red Robin Whiskey River BBQ Chicken Salad
by Jenn
serves about 4

4 skinless, boneless, chicken breast halves
2 ears sweet corn, husks intact, silk removed
3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
3 cups iceberg lettuce, chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 of a medium jicama, peeled and chopped into 1/2 in. cubes
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup French fried onions
1 cup slightly crumbled tortilla chips
1/4 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup Sweet Baby Ray's Original BBQ Sauce, divided
1 avocado, sliced

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Grill chicken 15-20 min., turning once, or until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F. Meanwhile, grill corn in husks 15 min., turning every 5 min. (For a great tutorial on grilled corn, click here). During last 5 min. of grilling, brush chicken with about a 1/4 cup of the BBQ sauce.
While chicken and corn are grilling, prepare salad ingredients. Toss romaine and iceberg together.
When corn is finished grilling and has cooled slightly, slice the kernels off of the cob (this works best in a bowl with the cob standing vertically!). 
Slice slightly cooled chicken thinly.
Assemble salad ingredients on individual plates as you like, though I suggest ending each serving with a drizzle of the ranch dressing, followed by the sliced chicken, a drizzle of BBQ sauce, and garnished with a few avocado slices.
Enjoy your "night out" at home!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Greek Nachos

So you know those ooey gooey, greasy, not-so-good-for-you, covered-in-fakey-processed-cheese-but-still-somehow-tasty, all-American, football game nachos?

Well, this...

This is not that.

This is light, colorful, and bursting with the zing of fresh mint and lemon!

When I first ran across this recipe on Pinterst it intrigued me as being incredibly creative- basically it's just a deconstructed gyro, but how fun to make a play on nachos! Everybody loves nachos! And what could be better than giving them a healthy Greek twist?

Oh, and we affectionately dubbed these "Grachos".

Just so you know.

Tip: If you have some extra time and you want to get all fancy, start by making your own pitas, then slice them into wedges and toast in the oven!

Greek Nachos
adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe in The New York Times
serves about 4

Plain or flavored pita chips (we like Athenos Original)
1/2 lb. ground beef (or lamb)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 TB ground cumin
4 TB olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
4 oz. feta cheese
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
zest and juice from one lemon
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup of pitted, sliced kalamata olives

Heat a skillet and 2 TB of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add ground beef (or lamb) and cumin and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until meat is cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes more.
Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, combine feta cheese, yogurt, remaining 2 TB olive oil, mint and zest and juice of lemon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Blend or process until smooth.
Put chips on a serving plate and layer with meat mixture, feta sauce, tomatoes, cucumbers and olives.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Food for a Fortnight


It's been a long time since I've written! Between company, vacation and typical summer spontaneousness, my blogging is all out of whack. But I am managing to bring you the menu!

Do you like my new title? I was trying to come up with something clever since I'm transitioning from making monthly menus to bi-weekly ones. We'll see how it goes!

Week 1 (July 16-21)

Hawaiian Grilled Chicken with Rice & Grilled Sweet Potatoes
Copycat Red Robin Whiskey River BBQ Chicken Salad

Fried Egg Sandwiches and Smoothies

Week 2 (July 23-28)


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bacon, Cheddar & Kale Frittata

So a couple of months ago I discovered the frittata. Oh, and what a delicious discovery it was!

It also opened the door of my imagination to a whole world of possible frittatas. How easy would it be to swap out the asparagus for some other vegetable? The Gruyere for a different delectable cheese?

Then I woke up one morning fantasizing about the combination of quality bacon with some sauteed kale (both of which happened to be hanging around in our fridge). Let me tell you, it was a winning idea.

I mean really, how can you possibly err when you saute kale and onions in bacon fat? And toss in some unbelievably bright farm fresh eggs. And Tillamook cheddar. I mean, really.

Bacon, Cheddar & Kale Frittata
serves 6

12 large eggs
3 TB half & half
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 slices bacon
1/2 medium onion, diced
4 cups chopped kale
1/2-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, depending on preference

Preheat oven to 400.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, half & half, salt and pepper until combined.
In a non-stick, oven safe skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Reserve about 1 TB of bacon grease in pan. When drained, chop or crumble bacon and set aside.
Add onions and saute 1-2 min. Add kale and continue sauteing until kale is wilted, about 3-4 min.
Stir cheese and bacon into egg mixture. Pour egg mixture into the skillet with the onions and kale and cook, using a rubber spatula to stir and scrape the bottom. Large curds will begin to form after about 2 min. but the eggs should still be quite wet. Shake the skillet to distribute eggs evenly then allow to cook for 30 seconds without stirring- this will set the bottom.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake about 10 min. If the frittata is set but just slightly wet and runny when you cut into it, it is done. 
Remove from oven and let stand 5 min. Loosen edges with spatula, then slide it out of the pan, cut into wedges and serve.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites

Sometimes when that afternoon slump hits, you just need to be able to grab something small and quick to keep you going, don't you?

And sometimes you just need that little something to get you through your work out.

Or pick you up off the floor after it.

Ha. Not like that's ever happened to me...

Anyway, whether you're slumping or lying on the floor, these little bouncy balls full of energy-boosting nutrients will have you up in no time! And besides that, they taste like almost good enough to be dessert!

The variations you can make are endless, but my version is, of course, chocolate and peanut butter centered. You can use any kind of chocolate you like, but I think dark chocolate is a great choice, not only because it's rich and delicious, but because the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you! I also incorporate my favorite peanut butter, Simply Jif, which has 1/3 less sugar than the regular variety. Less sweet, more PEANUTTY. How can that be wrong?

Experiment and let me know if you find any other fantabulous flavors!!

Note: Keep in mind that while these snack bites are healthy, they are not a low calorie treat. Just one is roughly 80-90 calories, so eat sparingly if you're going for health benefits!

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites
inspired by Gimme Some Oven
makes around 2 dozen

1 1/2 cups old fashioned dry oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
3 TB cocoa powder
1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate of your choice!)
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. 
Let chill in refrigerator about a half and hour.
Shape into balls of desired size (1-1/2 in. balls will yield about 2 doz.). 
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Healthy Cinnamon Banana Pancakes

So I think I told you in my last post that Hubby and I are on a bit of a "get healthy" kick. We've shed a few pounds between us so far and it feels great! I'm loving these sunny days because I really enjoy getting on my bike in the morning and riding along the river, listening to my audiobook (right now I'm working my way through Dickens classics!) and drinking in the scenery. 

One thing about getting in shape, however, is the need to give up some things. I'm not a big fan of dieting- I prefer simply eating variety and in moderation. But when you're trying to lose weight, staying away from a lot of sugars and unhealthy fats is pretty key. So I'm trying to practice saying no...

No to sugar in my tea. No to more than one cookie. No to hot cocoa. No to seconds. No to soda. Saying no can get old, so I was excited to find that I didn't have to say no to our typical Monday "big breakfast"! 

Monday is Hubby's day off, so we usually like to make something a little different than our weekday routine, such as pancakes or waffles. In the effort to use up a few fast-ripening bananas, I came across this fabulous recipe on Pinterest!

It uses all whole wheat flour, hardly any sugar and no oils at all and the best part is the pancakes totally melt in your mouth. I couldn't believe how delicious they were, considering I'm not normally a big fan of banana flavored treats. Hubby had his with a little syrup, but I sampled them with a light smear of peanut butter. I can hardly eat a banana without a spoonful of peanut butter, so why not? It was a perfect pairing. This breakfast sure tasted indulgent, but it was nice to know it wasn't!

Healthy Cinnamon Banana Pancakes
adapted from Big Oven
makes 8-10 pancakes

2 TB sugar
1/2 tsp molasses
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 cup water
2 TB unsweetened applesauce
2 large, very ripe bananas, finely chopped
1 cup whole wheat flour
 1 tsp baking powder

In a medium bowl, combine sugar, molasses, salt, cinnamon, egg, water, applesauce & bananas, whisking until pretty smooth (bananas will be chunky).
Add flour and baking powder and mix in gently until just combined (stirring too much will make pancakes tough).
Heat a large pan or griddle to med-high heat and grease with non-stick cooking spray or a small amount of butter or oil.
Using a 1/4 cup measurement, pour batter onto hot pan. Cook 2-3 min. or until pancakes are no longer glossy on top and bottom is golden brown. Flip and cook another 1-2 min. Keep warm while repeating with remaining batter.
Serve with butter, syrup, peanut butter, additional fresh bananas or other toppings of your choice!

Monday, June 3, 2013

What's Cooking?

Hi there! So sorry to have been away so long...I'm afraid I've been busy enjoying my family visiting as well as other stuff and haven't had a chance to get on write! My brother and his family came to stay with us for a few days a couple of weeks ago and tomorrow my parents and my two younger brothers are coming to stay for almost a week! What a fun time!!

Meanwhile, Hubby and I are on a kick to eat healthier and each lose a few pounds. We're really enjoying using the MyFitnessPal app where we can connect with some of our friends and stay accountable. We're also enjoying being more active- the weather has been great for riding bikes along the river! It's a challenge to count calories and eat less, but I'm so glad my Hubby's doing it with me- it helps me stay on track!

You know how I said before that I was experimenting with shopping closer to home more often, rather than once a month? Well, I don't think it's going to work out. Our local grocery store is just too expensive, and as often as we make trips to Spokane, it's really not much of an inconvenience to shop there. We went back to our usual grocery store in Spokane (WinCo Foods) and I was so felt like home! However, my meal lists and grocery trips and menus were totally off this month because of all our company- just taking it one week at a time for now!

So now that we're caught up, here's the menu for this week!

Shepherd's Pie with Rolls & Mixed Veggies

Crock-Pot Chicken Tacos

Probably out in Spokane

Grilled Pineapple Teriyaki Turkey Burgers with Corn on the Cob

Taco Pizza and Pepperoni Pizza with Fresh Fruits and Veggies

Grilled Garlic Honey-Mustard Chicken with Rice & Grilled Asparagus

Other goodies: Butterscotch & Chocolate Chip Cookies- I know the boys will love those!
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